Saturday 6 November 2021

Tunbridge Wells diaspora

One of the attractions of the Cape Wrath Trail (CWT) is that there is no trail, not on the ground, not on maps, nothing official or unofficial. No bureaucracy. Published accounts start variously in Ardnamurchan, close to the western edge of mainland Britain, many from Fort William then almost immediately diverge north up the Great Glen or south to Camusnagaul ferry. A leisurely cruise up Loch Shiel from Corran looks attractive for a start from Glenfinnan where Charles Edward assembled in 1745. I choose Glenfinnan because it gives immediate access to the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, one of the wildest areas of the CWT where I have had several glorious holidays at Doune, a small hotel set up by the Robinson family which I strongly recommend. 

From almost any start, Loch Stratton in about half distance, with a train station to Inverness and the wider world, a convenient on or off point. There is also the turning up the Bealach na Ba, the Pass of the Cattle, a celebrated obstacle to access to Applecross, now also accessed by a coast road from the north, a very long way round built in the 1980s, The Bealach has been substantially tamed since my first visit in 1972 on my then new Norton Commando, my first bike, rather excessive and capable of sustained speed in three figures in those pre camera days, followed by a series of BMWs and Moto Guzzi’s.

The Bealach is famous as a difficult road, perhaps the highest in the UK, with bends so tight that I had to stop and turn twice to make it round, much improved now, or emasculated with revised gentle bends, depending on your views on the balance of safety and challenge. I arrived at the Applecross Hotel, soaked and spread my wet gear on the floor in the room to the right of the entrance, then a lounge, now a bedroom.

Applecross was recommended to me by a work colleague when I said I was traveling in Scotland. He was right; it is tiny gem, a row of white cottages along the shore facing Skye, idyllic. Like so many idyllic places here and everywhere, colonised by the gentry from England, mostly owned by distant wealth in Tunbridge Wells, priced out of the reach of most locals other than the wealthy who own so much of Scotland, keeping it naked and unoccupied, sheep now replaced by deer, neither with much to contribute to their neighbours, destroying the habitat, eating shoots and leaves.

It is the same in Cornwall and the Cotswolds. I attended church in Chipping Camden expecting local accents. No; plummy, posh, immaculate accents, smug colonists from Tunbridge Wells, retired or weekend breaks, crowding out local people.

Such is well known, the young and poor shut out. from the rising market that so favours wealth.  The solutions are not easy, defended by the inherent inequity of capitalism, more so when actively resisted by the powerful corporate interests that defend a status quo that benefits them, in micro and macro markets. While Bezos and Musk play in space the many starve and thirst. Who cares? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *